The Caps won again last night, cutting eighth-seed playoff picture entrance points to four, and division-title picture entrance points to five. It was the first of a oft-referred-to-as-crucial five game homestand, continuing Sunday when the Flyers and their unwashed mass of miscreant fans from up I-95 arrive complete with their mindless playoff-less team-name spelling chants. Here's a tip for optimilitia members: when the name of the postseason-less, superbowl-less Eagles is spelled by the cohort of insecure thugs bound to pollute the Verizon Center Sunday afternoon (a time they usually have reserved for misogynistic wing-eating contests and sleeping off righteous "Lager"-infused hangovers), point to the best secondary logo in the NHL on your new Chris Clark jersey you got for Christmas asking, "HOW ABOUT THESE EAGLES?"
The answer? HOT HOT HOT. And why? Totally like (**hello Craig Laughlin!**), the stepping-up of Brooks "B-Laich" Laich. B-Laich's play has often been described as GRINDIN', scraping along the boards on the fourth line with Brashear and chipping in with key assists, goals (working on a career-high), and various other contributing ways. He has been compared to James Black in these parts, but we feel that this is an unjust comparison. Black rarely emerged out of the press box, unless it was to sink the Pens. B-Laich's contributions make more sense when compared to another DCO fave, but of a different sport, Andray Blatche.
Both Blatche and B-Laich are dirty-working trench-livers, who specialize in being pesky, causing deflections and occasional, always helpful scoring binges. Against Yao Ming on Tuesday, Blatche was quite effective, blocking him twice, causing a steal, and being called for phantom fouls when otherwise performing brilliantly. Eddie Jordan had no choice but to keep him in the lineup, often concocting strange floor combinations as a result, like having Haywood play power forward, Jamison play the three, and Deshawn Stevenson play at all, instead of preserving his lack of effective shooting on the bench. Blatche's six amassed fouls lead him off the floor earlier than we desired, but you could tell Yao has surpassed the NBA superstar language barrier (meaning constantly whining to the officials), being bothered by the long arms, the quick jumping and the jacked up grill.
Interesting that Blatche performed so well so soon after running into me at Lucky Strike Saturday night, where I was drinking off Todd Collins's floating pass ways with Tom Collinses. I wasn't trying to be one of those groupie dewds when I just happened to recognize the innocuous 6'11" dude stalking the impossible-to-ever-get-a-lane bowling alley/expensive bar, so I enlisted the help of a slightly inebriated female friend, who after delivering me a hi-five from Blatche, proceeded to ask him if he knew Steve Francis, which was both hilarious, embarassing, and surreal simultaneously. After he responded with a curt "no," trying to move away from this weird combination of beer and fandom, I thought about how simply interacting with this blogger has aided the local sports stars. (I also thought about how the young Blatche should probably not be out at a alcohol-serving bowling alley on a late night before a 1 o'clock game the next morning, but gossiping is not in this blog's wheelhouse. Blatche had an unremarkable game against the Sonics the next day.)
Laich too experienced a first-hand interaction with the conduit of 'tism, having answered a few tough questions during a post-game lockerroom session after a tough loss to the Panthers that team-tism attended. In that game, Laich scored a shorty, provided great energy and almost lead a third-period comeback for the ages. Two games after that, Bruce Boudreau was promoted, and the Caps began their ascent to the upper-reaches of the Eastern Conference. Coincidence? (Reach?) If anything, it definitely justifies Ted Leonsis' continued allowance of us behind the scenes of his franchise.
Further comparisons of the two include the late-round selection brilliance of both players (Blatche toward the end of the second round, the Wizards lone pick that season; Laich in the sixth round by the Sens, then procured for the Immortal Mike Grier); the versatility of the two (Laich used on both the PK and the PP; Blatche handling the ball like a small foward, yet also posting up on the block); and the correlation between their bigger offensive contributions and wins (B-Laich: last night, 1/1, 12/12, 10/8; Blatche: 1/4, 12/29, 11/20). And one more for ya: Key contributors to PLAYOFF BOUND TEAMS.